Some thoughts on 2015 and a “best books” list

winter 2016 -1 I’m writing this from a cold Europe, with an empty mug of chamomile tea next to my laptop. I’m still on this continent for a while, and winter, a season I was never fond of, has finally arrived. It was fun to feel the snow under my boots for a couple of days hours but now I long for t-shirts and the stifling heat of Bangkok. I managed to lean out the window and take a phone pic of snow, right before my fingers froze and my teeth started chattering. Summer is definitely my season.

I can’t believe it’s been almost a year to the day since I wrote my Plans and dreams for 2015. I started last year with a list of things I wanted to do. Maybe I was a little too ambitious – looking back now I can mark as done less than half of them: I’ve submitted two short stories (and got my first rejection letters), had 12 lovely guest bloggers (one for each month), and started a scrapbook/diary, which I will continue in 2016. I didn’t learn how to drive, or take more pictures (unless phone pictures count; do they?), did travel a bit but not to new places, Bukowski and David Foster Wallace are still on my TBR list along with “more poetry”. This year I’m not as expansive and many of my goals center around writing. We’ll see how that goes.

As for books, 2015 was an interesting year. I finally read Kafka and Remarque as part of German Literature Month and I can’t wait to read more of their books. I was a little afraid of Kafka, imagining this is one of those classics one should read but may not necessarily understand – so glad to finally find out how accessible and enjoyable his short stories were; I loved The Metamorphosis so much it’s going to be on my list of best horror stories forever! I was a bit apprehensive on reading war novels but Remarque swept all my doubts away and really impressed me with his powerful, emotional writing.

Goodreads tells me I’ve read 34 books. More than half of them are either horror, fantasy, or a combination of both. These are the best of 2015:

1. The Farseer Trilogy – Robin Hobb (links)
2. The Tawny Man (another trilogy) – Robin Hobb
3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer
4. The Verdict and Other Stories – Franz Kafka
5. A Time to Love and a Time to Die / The Black Obelisk – Erick Maria Remarque
6. The Ruins – Scott Smith
7. Haiganu–The River of Whispers – Marian Coman
8. The Forgotten Garden – Kate Morton

I’ve also read three non-fiction books which I loved and recommend to all creative people out there – Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman, The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron, and Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert. Strangely enough, I ended up not writing reviews for any of these three but that’s because I found it difficult to say anything that would show just how much I liked them.
On the first day of the year I woke up in my old bedroom at my parents’ house and grabbed the book on the nightstand which proved to be The Rake by Mary Jo Putney. I normally stay away from romance because I find it so cheesy and predictable, but this proved to be a light read and I really liked the guy in the story. Right after I’ve read a Romanian translation of short horror stories by authors like Algernon Blackwood, Rudyard Kipling, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft and two Romanian authors, Oliviu Craznic and Serban Andrei Mazilu. Some of the stories I’ve read before but most of them were new and I was sorry to get to the end.
I’m really looking forward to reading more of Robin Hobb’s trilogies this year. I started The Liveship Traders months ago but put it aside when I found out I was coming back to Europe for a few months. I would also like to read The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King and hopefully get to a few classics. I really miss reading a nice chunky Gothic novel.

What about you? What books made your “best of 2015” list? What are you looking forward to in 2016?

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24 Responses to Some thoughts on 2015 and a “best books” list

  1. Brian Joseph says:

    The last year went by so fast for me too. I also did not read nearly as much as I had hoped too.

    I also want to read and reread some Kafka this year myself.

    Thanks again for hosting me as guest blogger last year.

    I look forward to your upcoming posts.

    Happy reading in 2016.

    • Delia says:

      Hi Brian,

      I try not to care too much about the number of books I read. Instead of saying “I only read x books this year” I’m focusing on “I read some great books this year”, no matter if those amazing books were 5 or 50.
      Maybe we’ll do a Kafka read-along this year. What do you think? Not focusing on the same book but on any book by Kafka.

      Thank you so much for being my guest last year. I learned so much from the whole experience and feel like I got to know the bloggers better.

      Happy reading to you as well. Looking forward to reading your reviews this year.

  2. I’m so glad that you liked Remarque and that he made it onto your “best of” list. I didn’t have time to read his A Time to Love in November, so I still have that one to look forward to. I’m looking forward to getting (re)acquainted with German literature this year. Happy reading!

    • Delia says:

      Hi TJ,

      I loved Remarque’s writing so much and really enjoyed both books. I have Caroline and Lizzie to thank for German Literature Month. I hope you like “A Time to Love and a Time to Die”, it’s a remarkable book.
      Happy reading to you as well!

  3. Deb Atwood says:

    Hi Delia,
    I also loved Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close–both the book and the movie. I found the movie ultimately life-affirming, but my family thought it was depressing. “The Metamorphosis” is sort of an epiphanous work for me as it taught me how literature can change over time according to one’s life experience. (In my twenties I found the story darkly comic; in my forties, it became eerily sad.)

    The best book I read (actually, listened to) this year was All the Light We Cannot See. Have you read that one?

    • Delia says:

      Hey Deb,

      I haven’t seen the movie but I’d like to.
      Other bloggers have mentioned that about The Metamorphosis. I did not find it comic but I can see why some people would. To me it looks like a horror story – waking up as a bug…all the time I read it I could only think of a big black cockroach.

      I haven’t read the book but I remember seeing it all over the blogosphere and kept mixing it up with “The Light Between Oceans” which I own (but haven’t read) because they both have somehow similar blue covers. They are on my tbr list and I hope to read them this year. Thanks for the recommendation.

  4. Oh I hope you get to enjoy the sun again soon, then! 🙂 We still don’t have any snow in the West of Germany, but I love the colder temperatures, so I’m enjoying the weather with no worries about driving on ice.
    Yay hope you have smaller resolutions for 2016 and will feel better looking at your list next January! Good luck with the short stories, I know it takes a while!
    I loved your series of guest blogs, and thanks again for having me! 🙂
    Might actually join GLM this year if nothing major happens!

    Happy 2016 🙂

    • Delia says:

      Thanks for the nice words, Bina. It was a pleasure having you as my guest.
      It’s good you like the cold. You’ll probably get some snow before the end of winter. Have you ever had a winter without snow?

      Good luck with your plans as well and looking forward to your posts for GLM.

  5. Stefanie says:

    No harm in planning big and not reaching all your goals, you still did well and had a good year! And phone photos totally count in my book since my actual camera is broken and I have no plans to replace it 🙂 I hope 2016 is off to a good start!

    • Delia says:

      Thanks Stephanie, realistically speaking it wasn’t a bad year at all. If only I wasn’t so good at procrastinating. I really need to work on not doing that so much this year.
      A photo is a photo, right? 🙂 I hope you have a great year, too.

  6. Helen says:

    I loved The Farseer Trilogy too and am pleased to see it on your list. I’m planning to read more of Robin Hobb’s books this year. I hope you enjoy whatever you choose to read in 2016!

    • Delia says:

      I’m very happy to hear that, Helen. Robin Hobb is such a wonderful writer, isn’t she? Looking forward to seeing what other books by her you will read this year. Are you reading the trilogies in order?
      I hope that too, and I wish you a great reading year.

  7. Vishy says:

    Loved your post, Delia! Was looking forward to it! I loved your list of favourites – I think Remarque’s ‘A Time to Love and a Time to Die’ will also go into my list of favourites. I loved your guest blogger posts – thanks for hosting them. ‘Ex Libris’ and ‘The Artist’s Way’ are such beautiful books! Glad to know that you have started 2016 with some beautiful books! Happy reading!

    • Delia says:

      I’m glad you also liked “A Time to Love and a Time to Die”, Vishy, looking forward to your review and “best of 2015” list.
      Thanks for being my guest last year, it was a pleasure to have you here.
      I got “Ex Libris” as a gift from a book-loving friend who knew I would enjoy it. He was right. I may not have read it otherwise.
      The Artist’s Way is a great book, almost like a manual with practical advice. I think you’d like Big Magic, too.

  8. Sharlene says:

    Funny that when I’m in meltingly hot Singapore I long for the cooler drier weather here in California. Ok so it probably helps that it doesn’t snow in this part of California where I live!

    • Delia says:

      Hi Sharlene,
      I guess we all want what we don’t have, eh? I’d probably want cooler weather but not winter, though. Snow is fine for the holidays, I guess. It’s weird having a hot Christmas.

  9. Caroline says:

    I always enjoy reading your best of list. I hope to get to the Farseer Trilogy this year.
    I also read Big Magic and didn’t review it but, unfortunately, because it wasn’t entirely for me. I liked the content but not the way it was written. It felt like she’d recorded herself and then wrote it down. But it was inspiring anyway.
    Your stay in Europe takes much longer than expected. It’s not very cold here and no snow.

    • Delia says:

      I’d love to see what you think of The Farseer Trilogy, Caroline.
      Big Magic is not a perfect book, there were some things that didn’t resonate with me all the way but overall I found it really helpful. I like the “write it as you speak it” approach. No fuss, just facts straight up.
      I’ve been fighting a cold for the past few days so hopefully the temperatures stay above 0. There’s going to be plenty of heat and humidity when I get back to Bangkok.

  10. Hi Delia,

    One of the best things that happened to me in 2015 was discovering your website, and through you I met many lovely, friendly bloggers. In 2015, you recommended ‘Fahrenheit 451’, ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain’, ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’, and ‘Big Magic’. I loved all of them, and they have made me a better person. Many thanks!

    And, as I promised, I owe you one for featuring me in your website. Also, it’s biting cold where you live, so you might as well make a sojourn to Chennai (Current temperature: 25C). 😉 I hope you visit India soon.

    This year, I want to read ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’, ‘Ex Libris’, ‘The Artist’s Way’, and I want to try The Farseer Trilogy. My friend recommended some intriguing reads set in the backdrop of war-torn countries. I loved ‘The Blue Between Sky and Water’, and to my surprise, the author will participate in the lit fest that’s going to be held this month.

    Most importantly, I didn’t accept Goodreads’s challenge this year. I am looking at reading diverse, quality works. 🙂

    And, wish you a health, peaceful 2016, Delia. 🙂

    • Delia says:

      Hi Deepika,
      Thank you for the nice words. I must say, it didn’t take you long to make friends, I remember when I started blogging, it was months before I knew what I was doing. You’re catching up pretty fast.
      I’m glad you liked all those books, I have many more to recommend. 🙂 Looking forward to all those reviews.
      Ah, 25 degrees C sound lovely, much better than 0 degrees like here in Europe. I’ll get to India one day, better get a couch ready. 😉

      I wish you a great year as well, Deepika, everyone I know complains about 2015 so hopefully this year will be a lot better.

  11. Bellezza says:

    I remember reading The Ruins by Scott Smith! It was wonderfully creepy. I do love a good “scary” story, especially in the autumn.

    Again, a big thank you for including me as one of your twelve interviewed authors. That is a great way to highlight book bloggers on your beautiful blog.

    • Delia says:

      “The Ruins” was great horror and that ending… Glad to see you liked it too. I now want to read “A Simple Plan” by the same author. Have you read that one?
      Thanks for the nice words, Meredith. It was a pleasure to have you here.

  12. Athira says:

    I rarely ever stick to my script as far as yearly plans are concerned but they are still fun to make. You certainly had a good year. I loved your guest blogger posts and you have inspired me to read Kafka sooner rather than later. Hope you have a great 2016!

    • Delia says:

      I agree, plans are fun, especially when the year starts. They give me a sense of direction, something to look forward to.
      I loved my guest posts too, the fact that most bloggers even said yes was a nice surprise and an experience I’m grateful for.
      I’m glad you want to read Kafka. I can’t believe I’ve stayed away from his books for so long. He’s an amazing writer – at least as far as short stories go, and I’m hoping to try one of his novels one day soon.
      Thanks, Athira, I hope 2016 will be an amazing year for you as well.

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